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Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods
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Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,865 Ratings  ·  603 Reviews
When Jennifer Reese lost her job, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. She had never before considered making her own peanut butter and pita bread, let alone curing her own prosciutto or raising turkeys. And though it sounded logical that "doing it yourself" would cost less, ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Atria Books
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Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cooking, eating
I can proclaim with absolute certainty this is the most enjoyable cookbook I will probably never use!

I have no plans to make my own cream cheese. I will not be fermenting my own kimchi, curing my own meat, or even rendering my own lard.


This is easily one of the most entertaining books I have read this year.

The author is FUNNY! Her saucy writing style, willingness to try anything, and dogged devotion to exhausting research reminds me of Mary Roach. I giggled when she bought a skin-on pork
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Did I find this book useful? Maybe. I now am encouraged to try baking bread, making yogurt, making hummus, and beef jerky, based on her book. I will report back after spending a Saturday doing these things and we will see.

But I got really tired of the tone after she started trying to raise livestock. So a minor digression.

There is an alarming persona at work in our culture. The tone in "Julie and Julia" and now in "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" is one of women who decide that they are going
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I lost my job, I started cooking beans from dry but that's about as far as I got going down the road to discovering which recipes I could use my newly-found time to make. And when I heard about this book, I kept recommending it to people I knew who made preserves. Finally I realized I was recommending it because I was interested, so I sat down and read it. Just when I was thinking we might have to give up the dog in favor of chickens and goats, Reese writes, "It seems a tragic waste to shap ...more
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I "read" this book as much as you can read what is essentially a cook book with a lot of fascinating and hilarious introductions and clarification.

Finding herself without a job, Reese decided to try making a whole lot of stuff that we typically buy at the grocery store: bread and butter, as the title suggests, along with a whole slew of other items like cheese, corn dogs, cured meats, salad dressing, jams, etc. Based on the cost, taste, and work involved, this book contains her recommendations o
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cooking
This book is a mixed bag. For the positive, the story-telling is humorous and easy to follow, and the format is well-done (what is the cost of making it versus buying it, what is the hassle, and what is the quality difference). For the negative, when I want to make something from home, it is because I want to make something artisan, not because I want a homemade pop-tart. This complaint is more reflective of me and my tastes than the recipies of the author, but if you would rather make a pain ch ...more
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My take: Jennifer Reese is a girl after my own heart. I had a similar experience only I didn't write a book about it and I forgot to get the chickens. Mostly because I have an aversion to eating animals I grow, even if it is only eggs. Don't even get me started on growing up on a farm and eating the cows that wandered through the field. Vegetarianism is so under-rated.

So Reese experiments with what can be made at home and what can not. It is hilarious and right on. I agree with her on so many le
Dana Stabenow
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
A few caveats before we get started, Reese writes in the introduction. First, although, like most people, I think about money, I've always been able to clothe my children and pay the mortgage and if I couldn't whether I bought or made creme fraiche--or bread, to use a less absurd example--would make no difference. It is frivolous and deluded to think it would. I just wanted to address and answer some middle-class home economics questions that nagged my Michael Pollan-reading, price-checking, ove ...more
Book Him Danno
This book is fantastic and everyone who enjoys cooking needs to get their hands on this book. What is best made homemade and what is best bought at the store? Well she sums it up in easy to understand writing adding a bit of humor along the way. Currently I have my homemade yogurt draining on the counter. How fun is that? Who knew I could make yogurt and Greek style to boot.

I will be purchasing a copy or two of this book for family members who love to cook. Homemade is so much better tasting and
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Intriguing premise, sharp-witted writing. Haven't tried any of the recipes yet. One thing I didn't like is how California-centric the book is. The nearest See's Candies is hundreds of miles from me, plus I can't grow lemons in my backyard, so I really don't want to hear about it, Jennifer.

UPDATE: I thought my homemade hot chocolate mix was good, but this one puts mine to shame.
Nikki Coffelt
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
A rigorously honest food manifesto, the author gives a "make or buy" recommendation for each type of food she experimented with (comparing "from scratch" versions with common products purchased at the supermarket) after losing her job. She bases these recommendations on the obvious differences in taste as well as level of "hassle" (ranging from "a 4-year-old could do it" to "you will want to bludgeon yourself with your rolling pin about halfway through this project" :) and cost comparisons, righ ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
TCL Call#: 641.3 Reese J

Madeleine - 3 stars
This was a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Why 3 stars?
She seems to forget labor in her economic calculations. While each recipe has clear cost comparisons they do not include time needed to make the item. While it might be cheaper to make my own cheese it would be good to know it takes hours - weeks - months. I do not consider my labor to be free. Even if I love cooking it should be considered a factor.
Plus, she obviously lives in California w
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I kind of love to read cookbooks anyways, but this one was particularly enjoyable. I enjoy the mental challenge of wondering how to make things from scratch, though I'll never attempt anything to the level this author did. She rates each recipe by cost and hassle, and I value the hassle she went through to create this book! More importantly, her writing is hilarious and I enjoyed every bit.

Recommended highly to Renae Morehead, who, if she tries a few recipes, I'd like to do it alongside her.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really hated this book. I really really hated the author. The main reason I wanted to read this to begin with was because Jennifer Reese lost her job and went on a quest to find the cheapest way to eat. HAHA. What the dust jacket fails to mention is even without Jennifer's income, her family still has enough money to throw around THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS on impulse buys. Plus, more than half of the recipes in this book go like this:
Make it or buy it: MAKE IT
Cost comparison: Homemade: $5.68. Store
Tony Noland
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun, very readable book that will certainly be of interest for two distinct classes of people who typically have ZERO overlap: 1) foodies who make everything from scratch; 2) "fast foodies" who make everything from a box.

Generations ago, food was prepared in the kitchen, beginning with raw ingredients, often grown or raised by the family. Vegetables, fruits, grains, livestock, eggs, etc. were turned into food through the skillful expenditure of lots of time. In contrast, the processed
Jamie Dacyczyn
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
5 stars for the humorous anecdotes, 3 stars for the recipes, and 2 stars for the overall mission success.

I didn't read this book cover-to-cover, so this is based on the parts I read and skimmed. I bounced around a lot. I loved the author's style of humorous writing. Some of the anecdotes and visual descriptions were pretty hilarious.

I tried a couple of the recipes in this book. The chocolate chip pumpkin muffins were delicious. The "Everyday Bread" was pretty lackluster, in my opinion. I'd proba
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I think it can be said that I've "read" this at this point; I skipped around a lot, but I think I've gotten to all the parts now. I found her tone and style fun, even (especially?) when she was doing obvious-fail things, and I relate to her wistfulness over certain areas of domesticity (including obsessing over recipes as a child, though she was far more effective in actually creating food from the recipes!). I'm not sure the make vs. buy aspect works the same for people in other regions of the ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
It's just OK. She doesn't do things very frugally and then concludes everything is too expensive (for example, who, when trying to determine if it's cost effective to have backyard eggs for a family of 4, would get 27 chickens?). She hates gardening and canning, so there isn't much on that. She has goats, but the book is published before either gives birth (and so before either has milk). Her strength -kind of- is to compare the cost of making something with store bought staples versus buying a ...more
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book came highly recommended, but when I saw her price comparisons and how much hassle she said most of the recipes were, I don't know why you'd make half of those things to save 50 cents, if any money at all. Plus, since she did her shopping at Safeway and Whole Foods, which are two of the most notoriously expensive grocery stores known to man, she deserves a kick in the pants for paying $5 for a cake mix or $3.66 for chocolate pudding that you can buy for 49 cents, plus 30 more cents in m ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The author's escapades with her various projects are hilarious. It was interesting to read how some things are really made and I am glad that some things are ready and waiting for me in the store!
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mostly self aware about the limitations of home cooking, with some excellent recipes I can’t wait to try.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s seldom that I rate a cookbook five stars, but Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is so much more than a cookbook. Cover blurb says: “When Jennifer Reese lost her job, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. . . . So Reese began a series of kitchen-related experiments, taking into account the competing demands of everyday contemporary American family life . . . . Although you should make your hot dog ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had heard about this book on public radio years ago and then was never able to find it until recently. The premise appeals *directly* to my heart/soul: taking taste, effort, time, and money into account what food items are worth making yourself and what is worth purchasing? The book itself was largely enjoyable. Reese and I disagree about the difficulty/hassle level of some things (e.g. fried chicken isn't that hard? Although technically I usually assist Will when he makes it...), but overall ...more
Mckenna Clarke
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m so happy a book like this exists. Though I will never ever make homemade mayonnaise, homemade hotdogs, or homemade prosciutto, I’m glad that the author did and that she wrote this laugh-out-loud funny book about how it went. Because of this book, I’m going to try making homemade yogurt and granola. I didn’t realize how easy it could be!
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is my kind of book! I tend to read cookbooks like other people read mystery novels - cover to cover, every detail of every recipe. However, what I truly enjoy is when the writers tell you about the recipes, where they found them, how they've changed them and why their's is the best and easiest cake recipe you'll ever eat or what made them come up with the idea for adding espresso powder to their cookie dough. Jennifer Reese does this. She begins the entire examination of her topic when she ...more
Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking-food
When Jennifer Reese lost her full-time job she began to economize by making things she had previously bought at the grocery store. This turned into a series of experiments on whether it’s better to make or buy. Was it cheaper? More expensive? Easy or too time consuming? This book is a delightful chronicle of her results.

I was expecting only a cookbook filled with recipes, practical advice and cost comparisons, but I was pleased to discover a lot more. Along with the 120 recipes is a must-read na
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Home-made vs. store-bought: we all know that home-made always takes more effort, but which is better? which is cheaper? The author tries to make almost every common food item, from bread to peanut butter to cheese to cake, and even things I would never consider doing (curing your own bacon, making your own Worcestershire sauce)to lay out the analysis. It was very interesting to see a somewhat-scientific approach to what makes sense. She breaks out the cost differential, highlights some home-made ...more
Slugs Youth
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
The subtitle of this book is “What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods,” and while lots of the recipes looked delicious (and the few I tried were exceedingly popular in my household), my favourite part of this book was the commentary about what foods are worth cooking up at home, and what foods should just be purchased instead.

Jennifer Reese is a funny and articulate writer, but more importantly, she is a dedicated do-it-yourself-er who sets
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic-etc
Yes, I read an entire cookbook and I'm counting it as a book. There are more stories in here than just recipes. I really enjoyed all the adventures she went through with beekeeping, goats, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. I think I could keep reading these kind of stories forever and I LOL'd more than once at her trials and failures with these animals and making cheeses and cured meats, undertaking I don't know that I would ever attempt (hanging an entire leg of pork in your basement? No thanks). I ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm really not sure what to make of this book. The premise is neat - what should you make at home and what's better to buy at the store? And when I first started reading it, I was pleasantly surprised at the funny, sarcastic writing and stories of home-making escapades the author went through. I laughed out loud quite a bit and got carried away thinking how funny and fantastic this book was.

But. The tone got a bit old after about a third of the way through. And then really old by the end. It's t
Rachel Matuch
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Part cookbook, part food memoir, and part examination of modern home economics. Jennifer Reese explores what we’ve lost—and gained—in an era where you can buy frozen PB&Js. What’s really worth the time to make from scratch? And what are we better off buying from the supermarket?

Reese rejects dogmatisms and easy answers at every turn. (“It seems a tragic waste to shape one’s life around doctrinaire rejection of industrial food,” she writes.) She refuses to participate in the kind of shaming t
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Which DIY Makes Sense (Non-Fiction) [s] 7 43 Sep 19, 2014 12:32PM  
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Jennifer Reese has been a professional journalist all of her adult life, working mostly for national magazines, and has been an avid, adventurous home cook for even longer, which she blogs about at the Tipsy Baker ( as well as for online publications like Slate. Reese also teaches cooking classes in Marin County, California, where she lives with her family.
“Big food companies flatter us by telling us how busy we are and they simultaneously convince us that we are helpless. I am moderately busy, but not all that helpless. Neither are you.” 2 likes
“With backyard eggs, you can serve homemade eggnog at a holiday party with almost complete confidence that you won't make anyone sick--from Salmonella, anyway. Because drink enough homemade eggnog, and the race is on between heart failure and liver disease, unless a stroke fells you first. But life is short. Especially if you drink eggnog.” 2 likes
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